The 5 Best Day Trips Around San Diego & Why You Must See Them!

San Diego’s strategic location makes it the ideal jumping-off point for road trips. Here are some great day trips from San Diego to get you started.

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What are the best day trips around San Diego?

Some of the best day trips from San Diego include Ensenada, Carlsbad, Temecula, La Jolla and Idyllic. These getaways are perfect for those who want to escape the city for a while. And, all these destinations are located within a few hours away.

With its lush urban parks, miles and miles of coastline, beautiful beaches, an amazing climate and luxurious resorts, it’s easy to see why this city attracts millions of visitors every year.

However, if you will be in the city for a longer period or you are a resident, you may want to expand your horizons. 

Fortunately, San Diego is perfectly positioned for day trips. Just a few miles from the city, there are dozens of charming towns, and valleys filled with vineyards, nature reserves, and historical sites.

So, whether you are looking to lose yourself in nature, roll back the years, sample wine, visit mountain resorts, or relax on the beach, your options are almost endless around America’s Finest City. 

Again, if you like warm weather, and the activities that come with it, then this is the place for you. 

And, all these great places are within a short drive from the city, providing incredible opportunities for day trips. In this guide, we will take you through the best day trips from San Diego. 


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Located approximately 100 miles from San Diego is the stunning seaside town of Ensenada. It’s the second biggest stop for cruise ships in Mexico. 

And, it’s easy to see why. The area surrounding it is filled with sandy beaches, mountains and vineyards.

If you love water sports, then you can enjoy activities like diving, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing and surfing. 

Nature lovers can go hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing, in one of the two national parks near this area. Or, you can simply hike along its rugged coastline, if you still want to remain close to the beach.

The hills surrounding Ensenada are filled with vineyards, where you will also find hundreds of wineries. 

So, if time allows, you should also ensure you add a couple of vineyards and wineries to your itinerary. And after your fun-filled day, you can unwind and relax at one of the luxurious spas in the area.


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With more than 11 kilometers of coastline, Carlsbad offers the perfect destination for those who want to kick back, relax and enjoy a bit of sunshine on the beach. And, there are numerous amazing beaches to choose from in this area.

Carlsbad State Beach is probably the most popular one. You can enjoy activities like kayaking, surfing, windsurfing, and scuba diving.

The city also boasts three lagoons, which provide opportunities for kayaking, hiking and wildlife watching. 

There are more than 50 miles of hiking trails around these lagoons, varying from comfortable, easy strolls to challenging hikes. 

Also, you can explore most of the trails on a bike.

Every spring, this city is filled with color and life, as the Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch bloom.

So, if you are visiting Carlsbad around this time of the year, you should make a point of visiting the over 50 acres of flowers on the farm.

And if time allows, you can head over to Carlsbad Village. It features a spectacular stretch of hotels, boutique shops, galleries, restaurants and hotels.

Here, you can grab a quick bite and do some shopping, before you return home.


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Temecula is about a 60-minute drive from San Diego. It was founded in 1852, meaning it comes with that laid-back, old-town vibe.

If you want to experience old-town living, then a day trip to Temecula is just what you need.

Here, you can also browse through the locally-owned antique shops, boutiques and art galleries or even sit down for a meal or a drink.

One of the town’s main attractions is Pennypickle’s Workshop.

It’s a children’s museum packed with various gadgets, gizmos and games, designed to entertain kids and trigger their imaginations. 

So, if you will be going on a day trip with your kids, then you should add this spot to your list of things to do and see in Temecula.

If you will be visiting alone or with other grown-ups, then you should check out Riverside County. 

There are more than 50 wineries and over 30 vineyards in the area. The different wineries produce different types of wines. Therefore, you will have a chance to sample various wines, from reds to whites.

In case you are not so much into wine, you have plenty of other things to do in the wine-region valley. 

They include attending cultural events, wildlife watching and hiking, hot-air balloon tours, horseback tours and bicycle tours, among others.

La Jolla

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La Jolla offers yet another great destination for day trips from San Diego. It’s situated 22 miles from the city, meaning you can drive there in under 20 minutes if there’s no heavy traffic on the roads. And, it has a lot to offer.

For instance, you can spend your day kayaking, surfing, sunbathing, scuba diving, swimming, and snorkeling on one of the many public and private beaches in the area.

You can also swim with seals and leopard sharks and the Children’s Pool Beach or hit some of the coastal hiking trails.

If you’ve had your fill of the beaches and ocean views, you can head to downtown La Jolla, which has a host of delightful places to explore.

They include La Jolla Boulevard, Pearl Street and Prospect street, which feature a wide range of shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels. 

And if you want to purchase some antiques, home décor accessories or clothes, then Girard Avenue has a vast selection.


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Idyllwind is a small and quiet mountain village, which is around a two-hour drive away. It’s the ideal spot for those looking to spend a weekend close to nature. 

It has more than 50 different trails and scenic routes to choose from, meaning you will have lots of opportunities for hiking and exploring nature.

If you would like to get some decent exercise as you enjoy picturesque views, then you should hike the Ramona Trail. 

The entire trail has approximately 8 miles of elevation gain. As much as this hike can be strenuous, you will be rewarded with striking views wherever you look. On the other hand, if you want a less strenuous hike, then you should hit the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail.

Key Takeaways

  • San Diego is strategically located for day trips
  • There are great road trip destinations within a few hours of the city
  • You can opt to explore mountains, small towns, beaches or farmlands
  • Your preferences will determine your day trip destination